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Being that February is National Heart Awareness Month, I thought I'd start the month by providing alternatives to salt to flavor your dishes.
Salt is a huge part of most of our diets. The tricky part is that it's a great flavor enhancer, and it's very easy to over-do it without trying very hard. One teaspoon of salt has all the sodium you need for the entire day. For most healthy people, it's recommended that you consume around 2400 mg of sodium daily. That includes everything from your salt shaker to everywhere else it's added. While everyone needs some salt in their diet, no matter what your health history is, it's a good idea to cut back on excess sodium intake. Here are a few tips to add increased flavor to any meal without the salt:
- Citrus fruits: The juice or the rind can add a lot of good flavor to many dishes.
- Fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, parsley, mint, thyme, tarragon and chives (just to name a few) are all great additions to meals, cooked or raw. You can freeze or dry any herbs you have leftover after you've made a dish.
- Infuse olive oil with garlic or basil to add extra flavor.
- Dry herbs are great to have on hand because they have a long shelf life. Try parsley, oregano, thyme, basil, sage, garlic powder and rosemary.
- Use spices with a kick - things like chili powder and crushed red pepper add a pop of flavor to any dish.
- Spices and seeds, whole or ground, can add a lot of flavor. Try coriander, cumin, mustard seed, cardamom, sesame seeds and poppy seeds. For a mild sweetness to a dish, try cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and allspice.
- Low sodium/No Added Salt chicken broth, tomato paste or other canned tomato products can enhance any dish.
- Choose salt-free spice mixes or marinades.
- Be wary of most condiments, as they are typically loaded with salt unless they specify otherwise on the label.
- Use other flavorful ingredients such as onions, garlic, green onions, ginger, shallots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, leeks, celery and carrots to add flavor to an otherwise salt-dependent dish.
Some other tips:
- Roast meats and vegetables until "caramelized," or browned
- Cook pasta or other grains with low sodium chicken broth instead of water
- Toast nuts in a moderate oven until lightly browned
- Caramelize onions and other vegetables as a first step before adding the liquid in soup and stew recipes
- If a recipe says that salt is optional, keep it out of the dish
Making small changes can make it a lot easier on your tastebuds to transition from a relatively high salt diet to a much lower and healthier one.
Be good to your heart!
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